Wings say Zetterberg’s health will determine if he returns
Henrick Zetterberg on whether he’ll return to the Wings: “Health is the key thing. If I’m healthy, I’ll be back.”
There is some concern within the Red Wings organization whether Henrik Zetterberg will play next season.
Zetterberg has played in all 82 games in each of the past three seasons but has a history of back issues. He underwent major surgery in 2014 that forced him to withdraw from the Olympics.
“The last I talked to him, I think he’s planning on playing,” Detroit GM Ken Holland said on www.mlive.com. “Obviously his back is going to determine whether he can or can’t. … I’m expecting him to play. Do I have a clear green light? No. I don’t know that I’ve got a clear green light.
“Obviously, when you are dealing with the back and you’re dealing with the health of a person, it’s hard to read the future when it comes to health. Obviously, that’s a key piece for us. I’ll stay in touch with Henrik as we get into July to see how his health is.”
The Wings’ captain, who turns 38 on Oct. 9, has three years remaining on the 12-year, $73-million contract he signed in 2009. The cap hit is $6.083 million, but his salary is $3.35 million this season and $1 million in each of the following two seasons.
When the Red Wings cleaned out their lockers on April 10, Zetterberg was asked if there was any doubt he would return in 2018-19.
“Right now, no. So that’s all I can say,” he said. “But like I’ve been telling you guys, health is the key thing. If I’m healthy, I’ll be back.”
Still opportunity for youngsters
With the re-signing of defenseman Mike Green and the free agent signings of goalie Jonathan Bernier and right wing Tomas Vanek, many are asking: What happened to Detroit’s rebuild?
Green turns 33 on Oct. 12, Vanek is 34, and Bernier turns 30 on Aug. 7.
“As we go forward over the next year or two and we’re trying to transition from older people, it’s important that we’re competitive” Holland said. “It’s important that we’ve got some veterans around our kids.
“At the same time, it’s important that our kids are going to get an opportunity. We believe we can make both things happen.”
The Wings expect their top picks in the last two drafts, forwards Filip Zadina and Michael Rasmussen, to compete for roster spots in training camp and the pre-season in September. Left wing Evgeny Svechnikov, their 2015 top pick, is also in the mix.
Detroit is also looking for right-shooting defenseman Filip Hronek to make a serious bid for a job. Holland said 2016 top pick Dennis Cholowski along with Libor Sulak and Joe Hicketts will fight for a spot on the blue line as well.
“We’re going to give a lot of players a long look in pre-season,” Holland said. “The hope is that two or three kids crack our lineup. But they’ve got to be ready.”
Bernier not content with back-up role
Jonathan Bernier, whom the Red Wings signed to a three-year, $9-million free agent contract, says he will challenge Jimmy Howard to be Detroit’s No.1 goaltender in 2018-19 and beyond.
“I know Jimmy a little bit, playing against him, and we’re going to push each other to bring this team back in the playoffs,” Bernier said. “I didn’t want to be in a position where I played 15-20 games. I want to come in and have a chance to play as much as possible, obviously depending on my play. But I just thought it was a great opportunity that me and Jimmy can battle for games.”
Howard, 34, is entering the final year of his contract. If he plays well, the Red Wings are expected to offer him a short-term extension.